GNOME 3.8, KDE 4.11 and Debdelta-integration.

Hi all,
This would be a slightly longish post about various things happening in Debian.

Lots of good stuff happening. Lemme start with A. Menucc’s mail to me about debdelta-integration in Debian.I have shared about debdelta number of times, perhaps the most educational post about it is this one which explains how it works and what happens behind the scene.

So few days back I got this mail from A. Menucc.

dear Shirish,

we are working to integrate debdelta more tightly into debian; it will take some time; after that, most problems should be solved.


A little bit of background is in order. AFAIK there are two servers which A. Menucc uses, one on which the packages compared and a .debdelta file created for both i386 and amd64. There are around 12-13 hardware architectures which cannot take the sweetness of debdelta which would lower the bandwidth requirements for everybody who uses Debian.

The second server is probably an ftp server as it tells/shares the .debdelta file.

Now while the good thing is that we have both services segregated, the bad thing is points are failure are doubled than on one. If either of the server goes down, users like me who are accustomed to the service feel let down, esp. when updates of huge files happen for a library transition or something like that.

An example would serve here. Quite recently there was a libreoffice NMU (Non-Maintainer Upload) update as libreoffice changed from using boost 1.49 to boost 1.54 . Now I have almost all the packages of libreoffice including its huge clipart package.

Without debdelta I would have had to download something close to 1 GB whereas with debdelta I was able to work with only 100-150 MB of deltas.

If service gets integrated in then down-time would be thing of the past, there is also possibility of more architectures using debdeltas hence the software itself becomes more mature as well. I just checked and debdelta has been ported to 9 hardware architectures and not just two as shared above but have no idea if somebody is giving the debdelta service or not? the homepage doesn’t talk about any of the other hardware architectures as well, except for i386 and amd64.

On the other side, if debdelta gets integrated in libapt and morphs into one of the back-ends and stays in python-apt that would be incredible as well.

$ aptitude show python-apt
Package: python-apt
State: installed
Automatically installed: no
Multi-Arch: allowed
Version: 0.9.1
Priority: standard
Section: python
Maintainer: APT Development Team
Architecture: amd64
Uncompressed Size: 606 k
Depends: python (>= 2.7), python (= 0.8.11), libapt-pkg4.12 (>=, libc6 (>= 2.14), libgcc1 (>= 1:4.1.1), libstdc++6 (>= 4.4.0), python-apt-common
Recommends: lsb-release, iso-codes, xz-utils
Suggests: python-apt-dbg, python-gtk2, python-vte, python-apt-doc
Breaks: apt-forktracer (< 0.3), apt-listchanges (< 2.85), apt-p2p (< 0.1.6), apt-xapian-index (< 0.25), aptdaemon (< 0.11+bzr343-1~), aptoncd (< 0.1.98+bzr117), bcfg2 (< 1.0.1), bzr-builddeb (< 2.4), computer-janitor (< 1.14.1-1+), debdelta (< 0.41+), debpartial-mirror (< 0.2.98), debsecan (< 0.4.15), gdebi (< 0.6.1), germinate (< 1.21), gnome-codec-install (< 0.4.5),mini-dinstall (< 0.6.28), packagekit-backend-apt (<= 0.4.8-0ubuntu4), python-cdd (< 0.0.10), python-dogtail (< 0.6.1-3.1+), python-software-properties (< 0.70.debian-1+), rebuildd (< 0.3.9), software-center (< 1.1.21debian2), tla-buildpackage (< 0.9.14), ubuntu-dev-tools (< 0.93debian1), unattended-upgrades (< 0.42debian2), update-manager (< 0.200.2-1), update-notifier (< 0.99.3debian9), wajig (< 2.0.46)
Provides: python-apt:any, python2.7-apt
Description: Python interface to libapt-pkg
The apt_pkg Python interface will provide full access to the internal libapt-pkg structures allowing Python programs to easily perform a
variety of functions, such as:

* Access to the APT configuration system
* Access to the APT package information database
* Parsing of Debian package control files, and other files with a similar structure

The included 'aptsources' Python interface provides an abstraction of the sources.list configuration on the repository and the distro level.

$ dpkg -L python-apt

There was a GSOC for debdelta integration few years ago but the student wasn’t able to complete it.

If this happens, then almost all the package managers would benefit as almost all of them use libapt in the background. There might also be a possibility to refactor the code which would make it simpler as well as perhaps a bit faster than it is today.

If the above software integration happens it would also bring that much-needed parity between rpm systems and deb-based systems. From what little I know rpm-based distributions use a very similar debdelta like approach in their updates.

I am looking forward to more news from A.Menucc as to what the future plans are for debdelta.

The second good news is GNOME 3.8 finally transitioned to testing. See bug #726032 .

So finally testing users like myself could advantage of GNOME 3.8 awesomeness. We could have it 2-3 weeks earlier if for not last-minute bugs. See for e.g.#724731 but this might be a corner case otherwise the packagers would not have moved GNOME 3.8 to testing .

I do remember one when GNOME 3.8 came into the Debian archive where it would not respect autologin. From that day onward I had to change my behavior so I don’t autologin. Have no idea whether I reported it or not but it was annoying.

Notes for upgrading :-
1. I am not a lover of GNOME-shell and while the shell is there, I have been always been a GNOME 2 lover. The first thing while upgrading is to keep in mind that gnome-fallback has gone and is replaced by gnome-flashback.

2. Whenever I am upgrading as something as important as a DE, the first thing is to change to either a different DE or if that’s not possible then go to one of the ttys for terminal emulation via ALT+TAB+Fn keys. In this instance, stopped gdm and let the whole update/upgrade happen. Make sure that apt-listchanges either uses text if you want to see it or make it silent. At my end I made it silent for the upgrade to work.

3. Update/upgrade and enter in the new session. Now another change I have not embraced till date is libmutter and I continue to rely on metacity which has served me for almost 8-10 years. Metacity is still being developed albeit with much lesser interest but it’s still happening. My reason for not using libmutter is simply for the fact I don’t have fancy hardware. Maybe once I get access to better hardware, I would try out libmutter too. There is also tendency to be with things (as well as software) you are used to rather than changing everything. Having something familiar is perhaps part of that.

Anyways, did the upgrade and started a new session. The first thing I was pleasantly surprised was the new login stylishly greyish login session page where it asked for my login credentials. I entered the session and immediately saw no background wallpaper 😦

I did it twice or thrice, I restarted gdm couple of times but to no avail. I was having some net connectivity issues but the next time Net became available, the first thing I did was file the bug in debian.

Today Emilio (Pochu) responded. It seems for using gnome-flashback somebody would have to code some component so things still work on gnome-flashback. Whether that will happen or not is anybody’s guess 😦 I would be talking on the upstream gnome-flashback mailing list, maybe somebody will take that up.

Note :- Debian will freeze on November 5th, 2014 which means at best we would either use GNOME 3.10 which is now in experimental which will at some point come to sid/unstable or 3.12 which is supposed to come in April 2014 . This is IF the gnome-team is able to package, test and integrate the changes in Debian well before freeze comes in. We would have a much better idea as we are nearer to the freeze date.

If people would like to help out, I would direct them to visit the debian-gnome mailing list as alioth is down and being restored. There is talk being revived again of moving development from subversion to git. The best part if that happens is if again alioth goes down tomorrow (figuratively), people could still carry on development and mirror the development to gitorious or any other git service without caring. Whether the subversion to git migration is a success or not only bigon (Laurent Bigonville) can answer. I have heard that the process is incredibly painful and slow as people wanna preserve the history as well. I believe the resultant git archive would be larger and would have to be re-packed so it is efficient in disk space. But again, all of these are headaches of Laurent Bigonville from the gnome-team.

Anyways, coincidentally KDE 4.11 first wave of packages came to shore today (i.e. Debian testing). For instance kde-wallpapers came to testing today. I am guessing the rest of the transition would happen over a day or two. It’s part of the KDE 4.11 transition.

The only other big news was VLC which also updated/upgraded to 2.1 . There has been some changes in the interface from before and its nicer a bit than before. The main change is it has now a big playlist is empty rectangular spot on-screen and various links like nautilus with possibility of adding podcasts and all. This was all there but not as accessible to the lay user and he had to shoot some hoops. Making external links playable in vlc may uncover some more bugs but would be better in the long-run for the health of the player itself.

Lastly, just came across an interesting blog post which talks about unpaid labor in FOSS. I agree with most of the observations as shared in the blog post.What I think is missing from the picture is about licensing equation and reminds me of the selling exceptions license which R.M.S. (Richard M. Stallman) talked about. Both companies, startups, non-profits and co-operatives on free software are all part of the ecosystem. Unless these stakeholders do not change their view on licensing the issue will remain as it is today.

See you all l8er.

One thought on “GNOME 3.8, KDE 4.11 and Debdelta-integration.

  1. What I’ve been looking for is the latest Debian distro with KDE v3.5.x compiled into a working package, one including the usual graphic and browser apps, and desktop office and communication apps. Been stuck at openSuSE v11.2 for months now, since KDE v4.x is unstable and heavy crap.

    Via a magazine or book DVD, that would make Debian more competitive with M$-Win/8.x which has been a disaster. Folk who ‘upgraded’ to Win/8.1 are really in trouble, and just need to replace it with something better. Older laptops and office-surplus mini-towers are also cheap and plentiful.

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